This review seeks to comprehend the evolution of identity from a lifelong perspective. This activity will be completed by looking at numerous evaluations of the literature on identity development at different phases of development, including childhood, adolescence, and maturity. The growth of literature on the same subject has been mimicked by Erik Eriksson’s influential social science writings. Eriksson became influential in the field of psychological development as a result of his theory on psychosocial development, which gave rise to a profusion of research investigations. Eriksson created theories on identity, and while he mostly wrote about the adolescent years, he also provided insight into the developmental phases of childhood and maturity. Most of Erik’s theories are found in many identity reseach and it is therefore important to investigate and understand this matter form Erick’s point of view.
The review will start by describing Erikson’s development theory. Much focus shall be placed on childhood identity development, adolescent and adulthood. Both stages will address Erikson’s theories and imperial studies useful in understanding the sages of development. A critique of the identified literature will be conducted and a summery of the review done to assessed the learning outcome.
Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory
Psychosocial development theory by Erikson resulted in the development of thought. Erikson was amongst the first people to advocate for a model of life-span development of humans. His theory is made up of eight successive psychosocial stages. Every stage of Erick’s psychosocial theory is associated with an inherent crisis or conflict that each person have to successfully encounter and resolve for them to move to the next stage of development. The term “crisis” has been used in a developmental sense to act as a turning point of heightened potential and increased vulnerability. It is assumed that each of the stages has both unsuccessful and successful outcomes. These outcomes include trust versus mistrust, intimacy verses isolation or initiative versus guilt. The outcome of later stage is determined by resolution of the earlier stage of development cycle (Berk, 2007).
In his theory, Erikson continues to be credited for appreciating the effects of social and cultural encounters on development. Erikson illustrated how the world surrounding us in a social context conforms to the psychological makeup of every person. Erik emphasized that it is not easy to understand people if they have been separated from their social context. According to Erikson’s theory, individuals and the society are intricately woven and are dynamically related for the purposes of continual change and development. This theme permeates in all the stages of development and most dominant in the fifth stage of psychosocial development whereby identity of an individual battles with their roles as individuals. This mainly takes place during adolescence
According to Erikson, adolescence is a transitional stage f development that follows childhood and then followed by adulthood. However, he did not distinctively defined in a chronological sense the respective ages for these stages of development. Erikson works were done when it was not common to attend college, as it is today since vocational identity was given more priorities. It can therefore be assumed that adolescence, according to Erikson, referred to a period when one is attending either middle or high school i.e. 12 to 18 years (McAdams, Josselson, & Lieblich, 2006).
Identity in Childhood (Ages 6 to 11)
Childhood marks the starting point towards the development of identity. According to Erikson identity development starts when a child begins to recognize who they are as being unique and separate from their parents. As the child grows and matures, they take up the characteristics that they admire from their parents or close associates. By doing so, the process of identification starts taking course. Identification is essential to children as it enables them to build up expectations about what they wish to be or do with their lives. During this stage, the child starts to loose interest in the mare adoption of what their parents say or do and begin developing identity characteristic that they deem viable for them.
Identity Formation in Adolescence (Ages 12 years to 24 years)
According to Erikson, the main psychosocial obligation of adolescent is identity formation. During this stage of development, there is often the occurrence of developmental conflict identity versus role confusion. So many factors contribute to the formation of identity at this stage of development. Some of the factors that define identity development at this stage include onset of puberty, development of cognitive skill the improvement of physical abilities. Autonomy and increased independence lead to increased interactions with the neighborhood hence improving the development of identity.
Ability to settle for an occupation identity becomes a major hindrance at this stage. Most adolescents explore relationships, ideologies and vacations giving them attention to a particular career domain. This exploration of opportunities subjects them to decision-making and identity formation of what they want to do with their lives. Erikson believed that it is at adolescent stage that identity becomes a primary focus of concern. This belief has been supported by reseach indicating that extensive development of identity takes place during the college years of an individual. It is true that the college years expose an individual to multiple experiences that trigger matters of identity (Schwartz, 2001).
Identity Development in Adulthood (Ages 25 years and Beyond)
Erikson states that development of identity doesn’t stop once it is formed. According to him, identity development is a continuous process and takes into consideration an individual’s development through their adulthood years (Arnett, 2000).
Critique of Literature
Erikson’s psychosocial development theory clearly resonates with identity development. He clearly states how identity development is a continuous process that moves form one stage to the next and does not stop once formed. It is true that the formation of identity begins with the development of beliefs and skills that makes an individual unique during their childhood. These developments provide room for continuity into the future of the child. However, Erikson did not discuss at a great length the development of identity at the childhood stage. He alternatively effectively elaborated the process of identity formation in the adolescent stage of an individual.
It is possible to criticize Erik’s argument that most identity formation takes place in college. This is because not all people get the opportunity to higher education or that of exploring other domains of identity aforementioned by Erikson. Even for those having that opportunity, there is no guarantee that they will make commitments to the factors that influenced the development of their identity throughout their lives.
Erikson’s writing son identity development during adolescent does not give much light to the evolution of identity through the adult life. This has made his theory to be criticized for him extending the theory beyond adolescent without giving full details to the proceeding stage. Erikson also conveys contradictory information when he speaks about the development of identity after adolescence. The identity of an individual is made at the end of adolescence stage according to Erikson. These contradictions make it difficult to adequately assess the development of identity in accordance to the views of Erik.
Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is made up of 8 stages that revolve around an individual’s lifespan. Each stage of development gives the individual a task or conflict they ought to successfully overcome in order to move to the next stage. Sociocultural factors strongly influence the development of identity. According to Erikson, childhood stage lays the foundation for the formation of identity in adolescence. Adolescence is the optimal stage for the development of identity due to the influence of developed cognitive, physical and social factors. It is at the adolescent stage that identity issues are largely fixed. Identity development is an ongoing process and proceeds through adulthood.
Conducting this literature review was no small task as some of the researchers had used various terms and phrases in the description of identity development. Huge amounts of efforts have been put into consideration to conform the review in line of Erikson’s thoughts. From the review, it is clear that the development of identity is an essential task in n person’s life. It goes beyond the adolescent stage though not fully disclosed by Erikson in his theory. Erikson’s theory will be appreciated for being a good point of discussion that has led to the emergence of tremendous psychosocial research.
Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55, 469‐480.
Berk, L. E. (2007). Development through the lifespan (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
McAdams, D. P., Josselson, R., & Lieblich, A. (2006). Identity and story: Creating self in narrative. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Schwartz, S. J. (2001). The evolution of Eriksonian and neo‐Eriksonian identity theory and research: A review and integration. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 1, 7‐58.